Honoring the past 125 years with one last thing

Glessner House hosts a dinner, a lecture and a rededication

12/05/2012 1:37 PM

By Bonnie McGrath

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Lighting the fire in the library: a reenactment of 125 years ago

It started a year and a half ago--the commemoration and reenactment of the groundbreaking at 1800 S. Prairie Avenue on June 1, 1886--and it ended last night--a year and a half later--with a reenactment of the home's dedication on December 4, 1887. The home of course, is the Glessner House--a landmark designed by Henry Hobson Richardson for the Glessner family during the Gilded Age that attracts thousands of visitors from around the world to its door each year.

Some of the neighbors on Prairie Avenue didn't like the look of it back then during the street's heyday for the "sifted few" richest of the rich in Chicago. George Pullman, who lived across the street on the northeast corner asked himself every time he looked at it, "What'd I do to deserve having to look at that?"--or some such. He preferred the look of a French chateau to the look of a Richardson Romanesque.

In any case, the Glessners are having the last laugh--because Pullman's house is gone and forgotten and Glessner House is a huge attraction. And last night two good souls dressed up as John and Frances and lit a fire in the fireplace in the library--just as it was done 125 years ago. After which guests such as myself and my boyfriend Bruce feasted on pork and chicken, salad with pears, roasted vegetables, little pastries and lots and lots of wine. It was all very delighful and poignant and educational, too.

Esteemed Glessner House Executive Director William Tyre treated us after dinner to an inspiring lecture about Frances' life--from start to finish. All 84 years of it. She was an accomplished woman in her day--she did everything from jewelry making to silver smithing to piano playing. She organized a famous reading club, educated herself in all things artistic and was, by all accounts an excellent mother and wife. And friend to those who made Chicago great.

The South Loop is lucky to have Glessner House in its midst. It's a fact that anyone who knows Glessner House is always willing to celebrate.

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